The Dinasty Hotel in Tirana meticulously built, with beautiful wrought iron accents, hand laid stone tile floors, handmade furniture, and beautiful stone walls. Tables on the patio are all made by hand with beautiful mosaics. The four-story building looks nothing like other buildings in the neighborhood. Bay windows, stained glass, and curved balconies fitted with iron and stone accents are just a few of the details you notice here. The entire building is a work of art.
“This hotel took me 10 years to build,” Jimmy tells me. His hair, a mix of grey and black, is long and falls gently on his shoulders. He looks more like an old rock star, with a flair for casual fashion than a hospitality business owner. He designed and worked with local artisans to fulfill his dream to build the hotel which he runs with his wife and a competent and service oriented staff.
Jimmy bounces around his hotel, from the outdoor patio to the dining room and reception. He has an intoxicatingly positive attitude, laughs often, and full of stories. The Dinasty Hotel is home to the most important wine tastings in Albania. On his phone he thumbs through photos of tastings he has attended in Slovenia, Italy, and elsewhere in Europe, all with dignitaries and special guests.
Jimmy tells me he is a wine-lover, he loves Albanian wine but tells me that the best wine in the world comes from Slovenia. He promises to connect me with some top producers for my visit there in a few weeks.
The Dinasty Hotel is an institution and attracts an incredible collection of prominent locals. I meet Jack, or Xhek in Albanian, a published poet who also plans to buy a motorcycle and adventure around the world. “It gives me inspiration for my poetry,” he tells me. After I posted our photo with his book on my Facebook page, he thanks me and tells me that now his book and poems have crossed borders and oceans.
I get a personal tour of the hotel, dining rooms, wine cellar, kitchen, and special event and meeting rooms. Jimmy enlightens me with some of his favorite Italian and Slovenian wines, and the Albanian wine producer based in Fier, that offers unique blends of Albanian and international varietals. Sitting on top of one of his wine displays is a wooden box of the “Max” a Movrud wine made by Flori of Uka Winery & Farm.
Jimmy imports special pasta, cheeses, and other products from Italy. “The best pasta in the world,” he boasts, holding a package of the coveted brand. It’s easy to see how visitors to his hotel and old friends alike are cast under a “Jimmy” spell—his enthusiasm and energy intoxicates and sucks you in.
Later he introduces me to Dashimar, the president of the Albanian Sommelier Association, owner of Class Wines Albania, a well-stocked wine shop in the Tirana city center. Like Jimmy, the attention to detail in the design, product selection and even the painted scene in the tasting room.
Dashimar treats Jimmy and me to a tasting of Albanian wines. We try three white wines, a unique Orange wine, and several reds. The Kallmet again impresses me as does a Chardonnay. We talk about the wines and enjoy a selection of cheeses, meats and spreads selected for our tasting. For the white wines, the Class Wines Albania chef first prepares a traditional spread called fërgesë verore and is made with fresh red pepper, tomato, ricotta cheese, garlic and olive oil, we spread this on freshly baked bread. Then he prepares Italian pasta with a Bolognese sauce to pair with the red wines.
Our tasting lasts until late in the evening. Back at the hotel Jimmy and I sit down and share a bottle from Fier, a blend of Sangiovese and Kallmet. It disappoints Jimmy. The wine he tells me is better than this. So he opens another bottle, it’s the same. He then calls the winemaker, and they chat in Albanian. I suggest the wine is not bad, but maybe the heat of the past month damaged the wines. Perhaps the wine is heat damaged—the temperatures have been soaring since I’ve been in the country. He’s not so sure.
We are joined by another friend of Jimmy’s who is finishing construction on the first Hilton hotel built in Albania—A Hilton Garden Inn, due to open in September. It will have some 150 rooms, much bigger than the 30 rooms here at Dinasty, and I’m sure without the heart and soul. We snack on olives from his property. As he leaves, he hands me a bag of dried figs also from his home, good energy for my ride.